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SMC Tennis: Belles start season with strong performance in Orlando

Isaac Lorton | Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Belles not only got some extra sun on their trip to Orlando, but also gained some valuable experience in match play. Although its match against St. Francis was cancelled due to rain, Saint Mary’s (6-2) went 4-1 in its matches against teams from across the country.

On Monday the Belles took complete control, defeating Wisconsin Lutheran 9-0 in straight sets in singles matches and in doubles won 8-3, 8-6 and 8-1 respectively.

The Belles tested their endurance March 13 as they competed in a doubleheader. Building on a strong start, the Belles swept their next opponent, Howard Payne, in straight sets in singles and 8-5, 8-3 and 8-1 in doubles.

“It was good to get out to a strong start,” Saint Mary’s coach Dale Campbell said. “It built up our confidence and gave us momentum.”

The second match against St. Bonaventure on Tuesday proved to be more of a struggle for the Belles. They started well by winning all three doubles matches, but had trouble in their singles matches. Saint Mary’s only won two of the six singles matches – but that was all it needed. At the No. 5 spot, freshman Audrey Kiefer won her match 6-3, 6-0, leaving the outcome up to freshman Shannon Elliot. Playing in the No. 3 spot, Elliot won the first set 6-3, but dropped the second set 6-2. Elliot eventually came out on top, winning the third set 6-4 and claiming the victory for Saint Mary’s.

“Tuesday tested our resilience,” Campbell said. “A double header is a lot to handle and our young team proved themselves. As for the St. Bonaventure [match], it was a huge win. Shannon came through when we needed her. We have lost to them the past two years and really wanted a win this time.”

After a day of rest, the Belles got back to work with another set of doubleheaders. They lost to St. Lawrence 8-1 early in the day, with freshman Kayle Sexton and Elliot earning the only win at No. 2 doubles.

“[St. Lawrence] really dominated us,” Campbell said. “They had great ground strokes up and down the lineup. They showed us what we can do and we can learn from how they played.”

The Belles responded with a 7-2 win over Illinois Wesleyan later on Thursday.

“It was promising to see us bounce back like that,” Campbell said. “For a young team coming off a decisive loss the girls did extremely well.”

Over the week, Campbell mixed up the lineup, giving non-starters match experience and said he liked what he saw.

“We moved some players around and let them get some match playing time,” Campbell said. “As of now there will be no lineup changes moving forward, but at practice we are going to start letting players challenge for a spot to start.”
Campbell said the trip was not only great for training, but for relaxation and rest as well.

“This trip also built team chemistry and we had some fun,” Campbell said. “We went to Sea World one day and the beach another on our days off.”

The Belles will have to focus after their return home, as they will take on undefeated Indiana Wesleyan at 4 p.m. today.

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu